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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2014 Aug 8;450(4):1684-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2014.07.062. Epub 2014 Jul 21.

Non-destructive observation of intact bacteria and viruses in water by the highly sensitive frequency transmission electric-field method based on SEM.

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  • 1Biomedical Research Institute, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Central 2, Umezono, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8568, Japan. Electronic address:


The high-resolution structural analysis of biological specimens by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) presents several advantages. Until now, wet bacterial specimens have been examined using atmospheric sample holders. However, images of unstained specimens in water using these holders exhibit very poor contrast and heavy radiation damage. Recently, we developed the frequency transmission electric-field (FTE) method, which facilitates the SEM observation of biological specimens in water without radiation damage. However, the signal detection system presents low sensitivity. Therefore, a high EB current is required to generate clear images, and thus reducing spatial resolution and inducing thermal damage to the samples. Here a high-sensitivity detection system is developed for the FTE method, which enhances the output signal amplitude by hundredfold. The detection signal was highly enhanced when voltage was applied to the metal layer on silicon nitride thin film. This enhancement reduced the EB current and improved the spatial resolution as well as the signal-to-noise ratio. The spatial resolution of a high-sensitive FTE system is 41nm, which is considerably higher than previous FTE system. New FTE system can easily be utilised to examine various unstained biological specimens in water, such as living bacteria and viruses.

Copyright © 2014 The Author. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Beam blanking; Bias voltage; Scanning electron microscopy; Silicon nitride film; Wet biological specimen

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